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Whiplash: Information For Drivers, Pedestrians, and Athletes

The Atlas Files June 2000
By Erin L. Elster, D.C.

An injury to the neck caused by a sudden movement of the head, backward, forward, or sideways, is commonly referred to as "whiplash." While the term "whiplash" is most frequently used to describe auto accident injuries (in which a person is rear-ended, hit head-on, or hit from the side), whiplash can also frequently occur during ski accidents, bike accidents, falls, blows to the head, and other head/neck traumas.

THE MYTH: "If I don't have any symptoms right away, I'm O.K.".

THE TRUTH... After many auto and sport-related traumas, symptoms can be so slight at first, an individual may not realize he/she has been injured. Even if a person feels relatively normal after an accident, he/she should be thoroughly examined. Symptoms can be delayed for days, months, or even years.

COMMON SYMPTOMS: The following are symptoms that can occur following a head/neck injury (days to years later):

  • Neck pain and/or stiffness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness / Vertigo / Vestibular disorders
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Pain in the arms, legs, feet, hands
  • Tension, Migraine, & Cluster Headaches
  • Low back pain and/or stiffness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus), Hearing loss
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Jaw and/or face pain / Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • and many more!

In many cases, more severe immune-related, neurological, pain, and disease conditions (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Susceptibility to Infection, ADHD, Seizures, Multiple Sclerosis) can result from head/neck injuries, sometimes occurring many years after the accident.

WHIPLASH FACTS:

Two million people are exposed to whiplash injury (related to an auto accident) in the U.S. every year.

When the head is suddenly jerked back and forth or side-to-side beyond its normal limits, ligaments supporting the neck vertebrae can be sprained (over-stretched) or torn, forcing vertebrae out of their normal position.

In tests of low speed rear impact collisions, it was reported that the threshold for cervical spine soft tissue injury was 5 mph.

Most rear impact accidents occur at crash speeds of 6 to 12 mph - speeds below the threshold for property damage to the vehicle - but sufficient to cause cervical injury.

Whiplash injuries to the cervical spine can occur in sports (skiing, hockey, football, cycling, ice skating, gymnastics, boxing), during falls (down a flight of stairs, on an icy sidewalk), and many more!

HOW CAN UPPER CERVICAL CHIROPRACTIC HELP AN ACCIDENT SUFFERER?

If a person (infant, child, or adult) experiences an accident, a proper spinal exam is necessary to assess whether a neck injury occurred. An upper cervical chiropractor uses two diagnostic tools - digital infrared scans and upper cervical x-rays - to accurately assess a neck injury. If a neck injury is found, a specific adjustment by hand is used to correct the injured vertebrae. Correction of the neck injury can improve, reverse, and prevent numerous whiplash symptoms.

If you have questions about whether you have suffered a neck injury or whether a neck injury is contributing to your health problem, please contact Dr. Elster in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii at 808-866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.